Onshore wind is now officially as cheap as coal

According to an analyst from the International Renewable Energy Agency, onshore wind has dropped in cost to the level of coal-fired production.

Michael Taylor, an energy analyst and renewable energy expert at the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), has recently analyzed the cost of onshore wind power, and found that it has dropped to the level of coal-fired generation — and that’s even without including the cost of health and environmental effects caused by coal.

wind farm germany“If the environmental and health costs of fossil fuels were properly priced at realistic levels, the situation would be even more favourable for wind,” said Michael Taylor.

According to the new study published by Taylor and IRENA, 1 KWh of electricity produced by an onshore wind farm could cost in the realm of €0.05, and the same amount of electricity produced by an average coal-fired plant is only €0.001 cheaper. This brings onshore wind to within spitting-distance of coal, and as Taylor hinted at, when the cost of coal’s impact on society is included — i.e., the cost of global warming on countries, health impacts, and other similar impacts — onshore wind makes a strong case for ending the day as cheaper than coal.

Incidentally, gas-fired electricity generation did better than both, coming in at €0.041/KWh.

However, what is most interesting from this study, is that this sudden drop in onshore wind’s cost compared to that of fossil fuels has happened so quickly, society hasn’t followed the news.

“Renewable power generation technologies can now provide electricity at very competitive levels,” Taylor said. “Yet despite these facts, many of the world’s decision-makers have yet to grasp how competitive renewables have become. Often, vested interests lead to propagation of the myth of ‘costly’ renewable energy. In other cases, the change has simply come so fast, and so unexpectedly, that public information has yet to catch up.”

Between 1988 and 2014, the levelized cost of onshore wind-generated electricity has dropped by 65%, thanks in large part to the growth of the industry which has allowed the economics of scale and maturation of technology to drop the cost.

IRENA data provided courtesy of The Institution of Engineering and Technology